What To Wear White Water Rafting

If you’re anything like us, white water rafting is the ultimate way to get your adrenaline pumping. There’s nothing quite like the rush of navigating around a river’s rocks and rapids with only the help of your trusty oar (and, okay, maybe some assistance from your fellow rafters).

Once you’ve got that down, there’s only one thing left to decide: what to wear white water rafting? If you’re planning a trip and aren’t sure how to prepare for it, don’t worry—you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide that details everything from what to wear white water rafting in summer to what to wear white water rafting fall—it even goes into what you should do when it comes time for deciding what to wear white water rafting grand canyon.

White water rafting is a perfect way to get out of the house and enjoy some fresh air, but before you go, there are a few things you need to know about what to bring and what to wear.

From a life jacket to an extra change of clothes, here are some things you need to bring before heading out on your first white water rafting trip:

  • A life jacket
  • Waterproof shoes or sandals
  • Sunglasses with straps (so they don’t fly off!)
  • Headband for your hair (if you have long hair)

A life jacket is a must.

A life jacket is a must. You will be in the water, and it is imperative that you wear one. Without a life jacket, you could drown or suffer from hypothermia if you’re not rescued fast enough. If you are traveling to white water raft in a river that has rapids, you must abide by local laws, which often require that all rafters wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while they are on the water, regardless of the skill level of the rafters or how calm the conditions are. In some states, such as Idaho and Colorado, a law enforcement officer can issue citations for violating this requirement; in other states such as Arizona and Michigan it’s up to park rangers to do so–but either way fines can be as high as $100 or more per infraction [source: American Whitewater].

You can buy PFDs at any sporting goods store or online. It’s also important to know how to properly wear your life jacket. The straps should fit snugly around your chest so that it doesn’t come off when immersed in water [source: Rubenstein].

Waterproof sandals or shoes.

When you’re white water rafting, you need to wear the right footwear. If you wear sandals with open toes, your feet will be soaking wet for the duration of the trip, and you’ll end up with blisters and sunburn by the time it’s over. Sandals with closed toes are a better option.

If you’d rather wear tennis shoes or something similar, go for it! Just make sure they’re waterproof if possible. Closed-toed shoes are recommended since they prevent damage to your feet from rocks and other hazards in the river.

A headband for your hair.

You’ll want to keep your hair out of the way; otherwise, it will get wet and heavy, and will be a pain. An elastic headband is ideal because it won’t slip off easily. If you have friends who are also going down the river, ask them if they have any extra headbands to share with you.

Sunglasses with straps.

Next up: glasses. If you’re going to be near any water, you need a pair of sunglasses with a strap. You don’t want them falling off into the rapids or dropping into the river when you go over a waterfall! Find a good pair that fits snugly but not too tight and feels comfortable to wear. Some people prefer polarized lenses that reduce glare, but polarized lenses tend to be more expensive and aren’t necessary for rafting.

Finally, if you wear contact lenses, make sure your contacts are waterproof! (You could always bring a pair of prescription sunglasses as backup.)

Sunscreen and bug spray

  • Sunscreen

It’s important to protect yourself from the sun’s rays while white water rafting, so you should apply sunscreen before setting out. A particularly good idea is to wear a swim shirt and other clothing with SPF protection in addition to your sunscreen. One exception: don’t use sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as these can cause harm to the environment by clogging up delicate ecosystems.

  • Bug spray

On the note of protecting yourself, you should also have bug spray on hand when going white water rafting. This will ward off creepy-crawlies and other pests that might otherwise like to nip at your skin for a snack.

Sunglasses strap and sunscreen are both important because you may need to jump into the water at some point to get wet and cool!

Other things to think about bringing include sunglasses, a waterproof bag, a waterproof camera and/or binoculars. Sunglasses are important to bring when white water rafting and you should make sure that they have a strap so that you don’t lose them if you fall in the water at some point. If you wear contacts, it may be better to wear sunglasses instead of glasses because chances are your glasses will fall into the river when you fall off the raft. Also, sunscreen is very important! You will want to be protected from the sun while on the water and it’s even more important with white water rafting because there may come a time where you need to jump into the water for safety reasons or just to get cool.

Make sure that your shoes do not have holes or open toes; this means no flip flops! You need shoes that can protect your feet from rocks and glass and other debris on the rivers edge.

If you don’t already own some of these items, then make sure they’re on your shopping list before heading out on any trip!

To help you with that final step, though, [I’ve compiled a list](https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/white-water-rafting-clothing.html) of some great items to look for when shopping for your next trip:

  • Quick drying clothing
  • Synthetic or wool materials
  • Strappy sandals and shoes that can get wet
  • Sunglasses strap or retainer string to keep them from being lost in the rapids
  • Waterproof sunscreen and insect repellent if you’ll be out in the sun or on the water for extended periods of time


Whether you’re an experienced rafter or a first-timer, these items will make your trip more comfortable and enjoyable. If you don’t already own some of them, then make sure they’re on your shopping list before heading out on any trip!

  • The best hike for you depends on your experience level and physical condition.

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